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Macbook Pro A1297 (2009) Powering OnTroubleshooting

edited December 2014 in MacBook Pro
Hello everyone, I just registered and I'm glad to be here. I'm working on this Macbook and since I am none too familiar with Mac (I'm a PC Guy) I joined this community to learn more. Any suggestions on other forums to join would be great too.

The Macbook I'm working on is a A1297 EMC: 2329 2.8Ghz model running OS X 10.7.5. It came in because it would periodically turn itself off, and would no longer turn on. When I pressed the power button nothing happened; no fans, no HDD spin-up, no LED's, nothing. This happened whether the Macbook is plugged in or not. I pressed the battery indicator button and it showed it to be at 7/8 charge.

First thing I did was look up the specs to accurately trouble shoot. I then removed the back and tried to power on the Macbook by the two silver jumper pins on the logic board to no avail. When this did not work, I disconnected the battery and charger, pressed and held the power button for 10 seconds, reconnected the battery and pressed the power button. Boom, the Macbook began to power on, however at one point during the grey load screen it shut itself off again. I plugged in the charger, pressed the power button once more and it turned on and has remained on. I have now unplugged the charger and continue to use it and it has not yet shut off.

What do you guys think the problem is?

EDIT: To further troubleshoot this I turned it off and attempted to turn it back on with the charger out (battery now indicated to be at 6/8) and it does not turn on. It tries to spin-up but it then cuts off before the screen ever illuminates. I plugged it in and attempted to turn it on and it came right on.

Comments

  • Hi, and thanks for the post!

    Looks like you've done a pretty thorough job. My gut feeling is that most likely the board is bad -- often expansion and contraction of a board due to heat will cause it to power on when it's cool, but then shut off when it heats up and flexes. Sitting without a power source for an extended period will often also cause a board to work again momentarily, but if it's a bad board the problem tends to come back after the power is restored. I can't say that I've found the magic fix for too many boards that have had the random shutoff issue like yours.

    As far as further troubleshooting, I'd test the RAM slots by powering one with one empty, and then the other empty. Often MacBooks develop "bad" slots and will show symptoms when the bad slot is populated, but work fine if it's left open. You could also try different RAM in order to rule out bad RAM, and make sure the speed of the DDR3 RAM is correct for the model (check out everymac.com and look up the laptop by serial to make sure it's a match). If you think the problem could be related to heat, you could remove the heatsync and re-apply thermal paste. Dust can short out a board, so giving it a good spray of compressed air never hurts. And obviously I'd be on the lookout for corrosion, in case there has been liquid damage. Taking the board out can sometimes reveal damage or dust accumulation that is not obvious from looking at the underside. iFixit.com has the best guides for board removal. I would leave the battery disconnected while troubleshooting, since a battery is really not necessary until you have a working laptop.

    Have you seen this laptop working, or did it come to you in this state? Sometimes trying to determine what happened to the laptop at the time the problem started can help.

    Unfortunately I don't do component-level board repair, or know much about it. I can recommend a board repair company if you are interested, but the thing is with a 2009 you are in a difficult spot, because a board repair would tend to run $250+, which makes it prohibitive for a five-year-old laptop. Apple does offer a repair/swap for around $300, so you might want to check with an Apple store and see if it's still an option for a 2009. The benefit with that is that they do the work, and then they warranty the whole laptop for I believe 60 days from that point.

    Anyway, good luck, and let me know how it goes!

    John
  • edited December 2014
    Another thought -- try disconnecting the keyboard/power ribbon cable before jumping the board. In the case that the power button is sticking, having the cable connected can keep the jump from taking.
  • edited December 2014
    Hey John, thanks for the thorough and comprehensive response. While waiting for a reply I dido exactly what you recommended. I tested each RAM slot with new RAM, Samsung 2GB Modules exactly the same as the ones in the machine with no notable difference to the boot problem. I also disconnected the battery and booted up the Macbook and the problem persists. I will press the power button and it tries to boot up, but then dies. Try once more and it will get a little further then die. It usually boots on the third or forth try with or without the battery, but takes a few more attempts without the charger.

    I had the mainboard out and it overall was not that dusty and certainly not corroded. I did not remove the heat sinks to reapply thermal paste because the machine will stay on indefinitely once it has booted up. To me this doesn't indicate a heat problem. Usually when heat is a problem, it works fine until it gets warmed up and then dies. Is it possible for the thermal compound to not be doing it's job until it is warmed up? I have never heard of this before.

    The body of the laptop shows signs of severe flex and has it's fair share of dings and scrapes, so I am guessing shock and vibration or what caused this mainboard to fail over time. This laptop came to me in this state and I haven't seen it before now. (I work for a small computer repair company and we get the occasional Mac). I will relay the information about mainboard repair, especially from apple as that is something they may be interested in.

    The Macbook consistently will turn on after the third attempt which is reliable enough for them to remove all data of consequence and decide where to go from there. I am just glad that this post got a response and has some good information in it. I have not seen another like it while searching for solutions to this problem.
  • edited December 2014
    Very strange that it is reliable after a 3rd attempt...have you tried disconnecting the ribbon cable and jumping it? If the problem persists with the cable disconnected, then that is proof the issue has nothing to do with the topcase/keyboard. Since the power button is connected to the keyboard and often gets sticky or cut off completely due to liquid damage, the topcase/keyboard is always an important thing to rule out with these unibody MacBooks.

    I agree, heat issues usually get progressively worse the longer the laptop stays on, so I wouldn't suspect the thermal paste.

    I don't know what screen size this laptop is, but are you sure you're using the correct AC adapter? 15" and 17" MacBooks need an 85W and will either not power on or will power on erratically with a 60W, so if it's a 15" and you have a 60W, that's something to think about.

    Again, very strange that the problem is not intermittent, but that it is stable on the 3rd attempt. If it does not jump reliably with the cable disconnected, it's got to be some weakness of the board -- there's just no other explanation, since you've done all the right troubleshooting. These things make me wish I knew board-level repair, because I bet it's a fairly simple fix for someone with the right abilities! :-)

    Thanks again, and good luck!

    John
  • edited December 2014
    You've given me more avenues to explore, I will edit this post with more results!

    Edit: Well the first thing I need to report is that the MB is no longer booting without the charger connected. If it has just the battery it doesn't want to boot at all even after the third and forth attempts. This with a battery that has been charging all night on the original charger.

    Second Edit: The power button and keyboard had no affect on the problem. I'm gonna call it a day and send this computer on it's way out the door.
  • Sorry to hear! Sometimes it's just a bad board. There is a whole universe of board issues, and most of them aren't recoverable. At least you took the troubleshooting as far as it could reasonably go!
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